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A Matrimonial Causes Bill

15 May 2020

May 14th, 1920.

THE opposition to Lord Buckmaster’s Matrimonial Causes Bill continues to fare badly in the House of Lords. On Tuesday Lord Selborne pleaded for the insertion of a clause extending protection from penalty to clergymen who refused to admit “remarried” divorced persons to Communion. Lord Buckmaster, on the ground apparently that every Englishman whatever his religion has the right to receive Holy Communion so long as he be not a notorious evil-liver, refused to accept the amendment, and it was defeated easily. We do not altogether regret its failure, for, as things are, the issue is clear-cut, which is an advantage. Had the Archbishop of Canterbury’s wishes prevailed, the ecclesiastical authorities would have been left free “to decide how to deal with the individual cases of those who, under the new enactment, quite legally chose to be married under conditions hitherto prohibited by unvarying Church law”. No words of ours are needed to bring out the deplorable lack of principle revealed by such an utterance. Far better have the Bill as it is, and be saved the inevitable scandal of consideration of these “individual cases”. . . Had the Bench done its duty the Primate’s crucial motion last week would not have been defeated by one vote. As it was, we notice that the Bishops of Winchester, Wakefield, Liverpool, Manchester, Southwell, Coventry, Oxford, Birmingham, Lichfield and Sheffield did not vote. Any two of them could have ensured that our churches should not be used for “solemnizing” adulterous unions.

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